The purpose of government is to keep its subjects from harming each other. To minimize harm, government must control the interactions between people, both grand and small. An efficient government is one that causes these interactions to occur in a productive fashion. From a social perspective, the basic unit of production with which to judge government efficiency is not material goods, although goods are a vital part. Individual happiness (or suffering) is the only universal product of government. A government that does not keep its people happy is doomed to fail. When society leaves a large enough group of people unhappy (and determined to change), a revolution is born. If successful, those who come out on top of the revolution form a new government, ideally more efficient than the previous one. This notion of efficiency, or utility as it is called in a philosophical context, provides a simple method for judging the radicalism of revolutions. Radical revolutions are those that, through efficient means, produce new governments that are especially and notably more efficient than the ones that precede them. The soundness of this method assumes a humanistic viewpoint wherein human happiness is the ultimate goal of society. By evaluating comparative efficiency, this essay will argue that the American Revolution is more radical than the Haitian revolution, despite appearances to the contrary.
There is no doubt about the remarkably inefficient character of Saint Domaine's colonial government. In his The Black Jacobins, James details the many horrors of the slavery, to which about 90% of the population was subject. He also points out that, in 1789 at least, San Domingo was the pride of the French empire. So there was a great disparity, in this case, between the efficiency of the production of material goods and the contentment of the governed. Even those who were not slaves were mostly mulattoes, treated poorly as a matt... Continue Reading